By Bruce Shepherd, PA*
Imagine being a 20-year-old man with your world literally at your disposal. God has gifted you with a sharp mind and you were born into a prominent and wealthy family. You could go to university – something very few people in your entire country have the opportunity to do – and study business to follow family tradition and grow your own wealth. You could get married to a girl from another affluent family, as no bride price is too great, and start having kids, thereby increasing your status in society. Not only that, but you’ve grown up learning and practicing the major religion of your country. You are well versed in it and can quote readily from the holy book.
Everything that is of greatest value and importance to everyone you know is within your grasp. All everyone in your world is striving for could be yours. You don’t even have to climb the proverbial ladder of success, it’s more like an elevator that’s been provided for you to ride to the top.
And then one day, everything changes. You hear a story from the Bible and it immediately captivates your heart so that you want to know more. You begin reading it for yourself and this unquenchable hunger for more begins growing in you. It’s hard to put it down, even though you know the words are in direct opposition to everything you grew up believing.
But the more you read…the more you hear…the more you believe. Until one day, your eyes are opened to the inconceivable grace of Jesus and you believe. And now your desire is only to walk in the ways of Christ.
The problem is, if your family – and especially your father – ever find out, there is no telling what they might do. So you hide by moving to another town and cutting off all communication with them. But they love you and don’t know why you’ve left. They are looking for you. You’ve always been the obedient, respectful, reasonable and level-headed son. Has something bad happened? Were you hurt? Killed?
However, after spending a few weeks in this new town, someone recognizes you and you get a call from your sister saying that dad knows where you are and is coming for you. And although he still doesn’t know what you’ve done or why no one has heard from you in over a month, suspicions have been growing since you ran away from home.
So now you plan to run further, to move across the country to a densely populated city to attempt becoming anonymous again. But before leaving, you have this growing conviction that the most honorable and loving thing you could do for your father is to tell him that you have left his religion to follow Jesus.
Are you ready to count that cost? With one phone call, you would stand to lose everything. Not just your inheritance, which would have been substantial. But also your resources to go to university. Money to pay a bride price. Your prominent place in society. And most importantly, your family and the community you grew up in. You’d be completely cut off and lose everything. And not only that, but they may very well come after you to do physical harm or worse.
But the love of God for your lost father and family compels you. And thus you take courage. Are you scared? You’d better believe it! However, “courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” (Ambrose Redmoon)
This is no modern day parable. It is very real. And today, that young man, our friend and brother, is going to begin having that conversation with his father. Today is the day he is ready to renounce everything this world has to offer just to share the future hope of glory with his family. Every time you use your phone today, would you let it be a reminder to pray for him? Let him feel the power of your prayers as he says, “Hello…dad…I have something to tell you…”
And ask yourself, what would you do? Would you do that which seemed to be the most loving and honorable thing for your family in obedience to the Holy Spirit’s conviction, which would likely cost you everything? Or would you try to find a more palatable solution? What does your pearl hidden in a field look like to you? How much is it really worth?
*Bruce Shepherd (not real name) is a MedSend healthcare professional who is part of a team that shared the good news of Christ’s love with the young man he writes about. They have helped and mentored the young man, despite the fact that they serve in a region where Christian evangelism is prohibited.